Kent Narrows, Maryland | Chesapeake Bay Magazine

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Fast facts

  • Located on the east end of Kent Island, 10 km from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge
  • Founded in 1631 as the first permanent English settlement in what is now Maryland, and the third oldest after Jamestown, Virginia and Plymouth, Mass.
  • The largest island in the bay, it covers approximately 31 square miles.

What makes it unique

You probably know that Kent Narrows is where the Chesapeake Bay goes wild. Its shoreline – less than a mile from top to bottom – is packed with dock bars, from Red Eye’s Dock Bar on the Chester River side to The Jetty on the Eastern Bay side. Boats cruise the Narrows to see and be seen, and happy hours can last until the early hours. Yet, as fun as it all is, it’s also the domain of the boatmen who work the Narrows, harvesting the riches of the bay as they have for generations. There are great places to put a kayak or SUP to explore the local streams, or you can hop on a bike to follow the Cross Island trail. If you come for the party, don’t miss the other aspects that make it a great place for the weekend.

Getting There

On a boat

Kent Narrows is a destination practically tailor-made for small, shallow draft boats; it’s the fast-paced nature of the dock-and-dine experience that’s the star here. Not that Kent Narrows is out of the question for large cruisers – it is doable, but it can be a challenge for less maneuverable boats, especially those with an air draft of 18ft or more. There is a fast current, and in season the bridge only opens every hour and half hour. (As many cruisers know, it’s difficult to hold a place in a narrow, busy channel with a strong current.) For larger boats, a good option is to choose a marina on either side of the Kent Narrows Bascule Bridge so you don’t need to bother walking it at all.

For those of you coming from the south—say, anything from Annapolis down—Kent Narrows is 13 miles inside Eastern Bay, measured from its entrance buoy, green “ 1K”. From the north – say, anything from Baltimore to the north – the Narrows is six miles south of Love Point Light at the entrance to the Chester River.

By car

From the West Coast, take US 50/301 across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and across Kent Island to exit 41 or 42. Either will do, but the 41 will give you easier access to the west side of Kent Narrows and the 42 to the east. You can still cross the Watermen Bridge on Rte. 18 if you end up on the wrong side.

Enjoy three water trails ideal for kayakers.
The tilting bridge opens at the half hour and at the full hour.

Marina Basics

North of the bridge, Piney Narrows Yacht Haven occupies an in-ground basin on the west side. It’s pretty quiet, as the restaurants and bars on the quays are on the east side, and most of them on the south side of the bridge. It is next to Ferry Point Park, with its trails, woods and marshes. To reach the restaurants and bars of the docks, you can cross by canoe or use the Cross Island trail on foot or by bike.

Safe Harbor Narrows Point North on the east side offers plenty of slides and plenty to keep you busy, including an Olympic-size pool and easy access to Red Eye’s Dock Bar and Harris Crab House. To explore Ferry Point Park, simply walk, cycle or dinghy.

South of the bridge on the east side of the Narrows, Wells Cove Marina has a few transient slips and is handy for hotspots like the Jetty Dock Bar and Bridges Restaurant. Wells Cove is about five feet deep inside and can accommodate boats up to about 46 feet. (It’s also home to most of the Narrows’ head boats, so if fishing is in your plans, you’ll be in the right place.) Formerly Lippincott, Cedar Point Marina is owned by the same well-respected family that runs Chesapeake Whalertowne in Grasonville and Annapolis. . Its entrance channel completely bypasses the Narrows South Channel, making it ideal for larger, deeper-draft boats, and it can accommodate boats up to 72 feet.

If you need work done on your boat, you will find reputable service facilities at Cedar Point and Kent Narrows Yacht Yard.

At Kent Narrows Boatel, next to Piney Narrows, they’ll store your boat on an indoor rack, then bring it back to a floating dock when you’re ready. The on-site concierge service can stock it with goods, and the full-service Swan Cove Spa lets you multitask while you wait. Summer 2022 brings the debut of Dockhouse Restaurant, overlooking the canal.

Stay down to earth

The Hilton Garden Inn Kent Narrows is a clean, contemporary 91-room hotel overlooking Wells Cove, with comfortable rooms, on-site breakfast, and an indoor pool. Book a room with a balcony to enjoy the bustle of the nearby pier.

If you want something quieter, ask for the opposite.

Hyatt Place Kent Narrows & Marina is a welcome addition set to open in the heart of Fisherman’s Village in fall 2022, with 120 water-view rooms, an indoor pool and fitness center, conference space and a 40-berth marina.

The Cross Island Trail runs approximately 6.5 miles from the Queen Anne County Visitor Center to Bayside Terrapin Park.

Explore by water

We do not recommend launching your paddle boat directly onto Kent Narrows; the strong current and heavy sea traffic make it a tricky and dangerous proposition. However, there are many alternatives. At the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center, you can launch your kayak or SUP into the calm waters of Prospect Bay. The Cabin Creek Water Trail runs from the edge of Prospect Bay to Cabin Creek, approximately 3.5 miles. (CBEC also offers rental kayaks; book ahead online.) To explore Eastern Bay west of the Narrows, launch at Goodhands Creek Landing for the 2.5-mile loop around Hog Island.

The bar on the wharf of the pier
The Big Owl Tiki Bar

North of the Narrows, launch from Jackson Creek Landing and loop the creek. Ferry Point Nature Park is another great starting point. From here you will find a good paddle west looping Piney Creek. It’s best in light winds, as the wind has a long reach on the north-south leg of the Chester River.

SipAhoy TikiBoat offers 90-minute cruises on a thatched-roof pontoon boat (choose 6 or 16 passengers), operating from Safe Harbor Marina North. You bring beer, wine, snacks and friends; they will provide the captain and take you for a ride in the surrounding coves.

Kent Narrows is minutes from world class fishing. Fish from your own boat, charter a captain, or show up at Wells Cove Marina to board a headboat like Miss Violet or Captain Tyrone Charters’ Island Queen II.

Or arrange a crabbing cruise with Spittin’ Feathers Outfitters, which docks at Harris Crab House. You’ll find more options at kentnarrowsmd.com, a fantastic online resource.

Land exploration

The Watermen’s Way Heritage Trail begins at the Chesapeake Heritage & Visitors Center (where you can also pick up a copy of the Trail brochure) and continues to eight area sites, including the Watermen’s Memorial Drawbridge (aka Kent Narrows Bascule Bridge), the Maryland Watermen’s Monument and a stop at Fisherman’s Inn to see Betty Schulz’s collection of 400 vintage oyster plates.

Betty Schulz’s collection of oyster plates, part of the Watermen’s Way Heritage Trail.

Ferry Point Nature Park comprises 41 acres of tidal and non-tidal wetlands surrounded by three bodies of water: Chester River, Kent Narrows and Piney Creek. A walk along the mile-long wetland waterfront will do you a world of good, as will just sitting on a bench and taking it all in. Interpretive panels tell you what you’re looking at.

The Kent Island Cross Island Trail can be done on foot or by bike. Park under the west side of the drawbridge and pick it up there, or just cross the bridge and start. The 6.5 mile trail passes through swamps, woods and farmland, ending at Terrapin Park overlooking the bay, with a number of access points along the way.

creeping bass

The Fisherman’s Inn Crab Deck offers free dockage for diners.

Maryland’s east and west shores mix and mingle with the multitude of dockside bars. Big Owl Tiki Bar and The Jetty are both located on the south side of the bridge; Red Eye’s Dock Bar is to the north. All three feature open-air dock seating, with plenty of room to tie up; cold beer, frozen cocktails and crushes; casual, fun menus (think redfish fillets, steamed shrimp, wings and more) and live bands most nights of the season.

To eat

Seafood joints

Kent Island is home to a host of classics that have been around for decades, each with its own devotees. You can’t miss the bright blue exterior of Fisherman’s Inn. They’ve been serving fresh seafood since 1930 and open their nearby Crab Deck during the summer months. In addition to the food, we love the vintage vibe, including a miniature train that runs through the rafters and their collection of oyster plates. The Harris Crab House family has been in the seafood business for four generations, with the restaurant since 1985; the steamed crabs on their marina front deck are a summer staple, but they’re open year-round. The Narrows, owned by a longtime Annapolis restaurant family since 1983, is known for its crabcakes and imperial crab. Bridges Restaurant opened in 2010 and puts an upscale twist on Chesapeake cuisine, with salads and fresh seafood as well as pizzas and steaks. We love the many coffee tables spread around their waterfront patio, and they also do dockside delivery. Finally, don’t miss Dessert First, a dockside candy store run by Harris Crab House, for pastries, ice cream and Rise Up coffee drinks.

FURTHER AWAY

The full-service Bay Bridge Marina sits on the western shore of the island at the foot of the Bay Bridge, and accepts boats up to 70 feet. It’s steps from the Inn at Chesapeake Bay Beach Club, a 77-room boutique hotel, stand-alone spa, take-out gourmet market, and plenty of event space. (It’s a favorite wedding space for Mid-Atlantic.) Enjoy stellar bay-side dining at Knoxie’s Table or their new outlet, Libbey’s Coastal Kitchen; Located in the old Hemingway’s, overlooking the Bay Bridge, the food and service are now as stellar as the view.

Hostel at the Chesapeake Bay Beach Club

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